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How to Find A Short in A Car? A Step by Step Procedure! 

How to Find A Short in A Car? A Step by Step Procedure! 

If you're looking for how to find a short in a car, you need to familiarize yourself with the wiring circuits around your vehicle, learn how to use a test light or a multimeter to test for any faulty fuse, follow the wiring connected to the faulty fuse, and replace any problematic component to resolve the issue.  

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Any vehicle consists of a variety of mechanical components. It also involves very complicated electrical systems to help start many electrical components like the stereo, the headlights, etc. 

Like any other electrical system, it's not rare to deal with some shortages in electrical circuits. When the short happens, it sometimes causes major issues that won't be resolved until you take care of this short. Some electrical shorts in a vehicle can be very risky and must be taken care of immediately to prevent harming you or harming surrounding people and properties. 

This article will help you understand how to find a short in a car? It also provides you with an overview about the electrical short add the electrical circuits. Finally, it highlights rough estimates about how much it costs to find a short in a car. 

What are the electrical circuits, and how does the electric short happen? 

Before we dive into the details about finding a short in a car, it's important to understand how the electric circuit works and when the short happens. 

There are two types of electric circuits: the actuator circuits and the sensor circuits. Each one has its own complexity and connects certain components in your vehicle.

One of the very common sensor circuits in your vehicle connects the engine control module with the coolant temperature sensor. If the wiring between the two components is not interrupted, electrical current flows smoothly without any problem, and the tool components are performing as needed. However, when anything happens to the wiring preventing the flow from reaching one component, the circuit will be broken, and that's when you will deal with what's known as the electric short. 

In general, any electric short indicates a problem with the electrical wiring where the electrical current can't make its way around the circuit, which prevents powering any electrical component. 

How to find a short in a car? 

When a short occurs in your vehicle, you will need to find it immediately to have your electric component work properly. Sometimes if the electric short impacts certain sensitive components in your vehicle, the situation might be dangerous and could put your life at risk.

Despite your level of experience, finding the electric short in your car is very time-consuming. It doesn't get better when you have 10s of experience because the process itself is slow and involves some trial and error to find where the problem exists. 

Even if you use the most advanced toolsets, you still need to spend the same amount of time looking for the electric short. The good news is that by following certain steps, you can help yourself save some time and at least have a certain protocol to prevent getting lost when finding the electric short in your vehicle. 

Let's take a closer look at some of these steps you can follow to answer the question of how to find a short in a car: 

  • Prepare your preferred tool 

Before you start the process of looking forward to electrical short in your vehicle, it's important to have all toolsets necessary close by. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of time looking for the tools in the middle of work.

One of the common tools you might need to have next to you is the electrical wiring diagram. This diagram serves as an app to help you navigate your vehicle's electrical system without opening or removing any component. 

You will also need either a multimeter or a test light. These two components will help you test the electrical current to see whether it exists or not. 

Finally, keep a sense of good wrenches, screwdrivers at other general toolsets around if you need to remove a certain component and dig deeper to find the culprit. 

  • Familiarize yourself with the wires and circuits 

Once you have all toolsets ready, look at the wire harness while referring to the electrical wiring diagram. Familiarize yourself with the different colors and understand where each wire is going and its supporting component. 

  • Review the status of each fuse

After reviewing the electrical circuits around your vehicle, the next step is to inspect the different fuses. These fuses connected the wire harness, and you need to check each one by one because the problem could be in one but not the other. 

To test the fuse car, you need to follow a certain procedure:

  • Take the fuse out and connected it to the test light or the multimeter.
  • If you are using a test light, the light will illuminate immediately after connecting with the fuse if it's in good status. However, it will not light up if the fuse has a problem what the fuse itself or with its surrounding components 
  • The multi meter will show some readings indicating an electrical current flowing through this fuse if you're using a multimeter. Same for the multimeter; if you didn't see any readings, it indicates no electrical current, and there is a problem with the fuse.
  • Once the texting default, if he was, you need to refer to your vehicle's electrical wiring diagram to see which components are connected to this fuse because one of them could be faulty.
  • Keep some notes on which fuse has a problem and examine each circuit carefully. 
  • Follow the faulty wires 

After identifying a faulty fuse, the next step is to follow the wires and determine where the short exists exactly. To do so, reconnected the fuse and the different wires and used your test light or the multimeter to inspect the wiring along with the fuse.

Using this process helps you narrow down the problem to determine where the short exists exactly. For instance, you need to use the test light or the multimeter across different locations in the wiring. If the test light does not illuminate at a certain distance closer to the headlight, it indicates that the problem is happening between the headlights and the load instead of the other half of the wiring.

  • Inspect the wires visually

Some automotive experts recommend performing a visual inspection before starting any other research for short in a car. For example, you can visually follow the different lines and check for any faulty wiring.

If you found faulty wiring, you can easily replace it and see if the problem is resolved.

However, this recommendation is not the best for every vehicle because some advanced and modern cars have hidden wiring. It won't be very easy for you to detect the faulty wiring by just performing a visual inspection. 

  • Test the 5V circuit 

There are situations where the electric short happens at the 5V circuits in your vehicle. The five V circuits are those like the ones connecting the ECM to your vehicle's engine or transmission. The best way to test a 5V circuit is by disconnecting the battery and removing the ECM. Then, you can use your test light or a multimeter to check which component is faulty within this 5V circuit. 

  • Steps after finding the short 

After detecting the shorts, you're not done because you need to follow things after detecting the shorts. You need to replace any faulty wiring with a better one without any problem.

However, some more complicated issues required replacing the entire electrical wiring in your car. Therefore, if you're not successful with resolving your issue by changing the faulty wiring, you might need to consult a professional mechanic and have him inspect the vehicle to repair it. 

How much does it cost to find a short in a car?

If you're planning to have a professional mechanic find them short in your car, it might cost you about $200. However, if you followed the procedure we mentioned earlier, you might need to only get certain toolsets for $40, assuming that you have your vehicle's owner's manual. This way, you say it can save yourself a lot of time and effort. 

Keep in mind that finding the electric short is not a very simple process, and it will need some time and effort to develop the skill sets. It also requires some patience, and the more you do it, the more you get familiar and comfortable about looking for an electrical short in your car.

While it will take you some time to learn how to find electric shorts in your car, building the skill sets helps you prevent paying a lot of money for hiring a professional mechanic. 

How do you check for a short with a multimeter?

As we indicated before, finding electric short requires connecting the multimeter to any faulty components, and you can start this by testing the fuses first. Then, you can follow the wiring connected to the faulty fuse. 

The only thing you need to keep in mind is to set the multimeter to the continuity option. By sending it to this option, it becomes ready to test the electric current at two different and. The multimeter will tell you the electric current reading at each end. In a typical situation, the two readings to be identical. Otherwise, one of the two ends is having a problem. 

How do you find a short in my car with a test light?

As the process of using a multimeter, using a test light should not be more complicated. All you need to know is that when the wiring or the electric component is in good condition, the test light should illuminate, and when it's not, this light will stay off. 

Can a short circuit fix itself? 

As we indicated earlier, the short indicates a problem with the wiring preventing the electrical current from flowing freely between the different components. Therefore, there is no such a thing for the short to fix itself. You have to determine the culprit wiring and replace it to get the flow to run smoothly again. 


Learning how to find the shorts in a car helps you save yourself a lot of time and effort. It can also help you save money by finding the short yourself instead of hiring a professional mechanic.

Although finding a short is a time-consuming process, the mentioned article helps you follow a certain step-by-step procedure to find the electric short.

Keep in mind that finding the electric short is not the final solution because you need to take care of the culprit component and replace any faulty wiring. Sometimes the issue with your electric system can be a little more complicated, requiring replacing the entire electric system. If you found that resolving the electric short requires very high repair costs, it might be the right time to sell this vehicle to Cash Cars Buyer instead. 

Cash Cars Buyer is one of the top-rated car removal companies in the nation that guarantees to pay you the top dollars and will provide you with free towing despite your living location around the United States. 

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